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About Chinese Spirits
Because of the vast size of China, and therefore, the wide range of base ingredients and methods used it is a difficult category to classify. They have two strength categories, the first, "Spirits with Low Alcohol Content" range in strength from around 20% up to 38% vol, the second, "Spirits with High Alcohol Content" range in strength from 41 to 65% vol. Spirits with high alcohol content are more traditionally more popular in the colder north of China.
Chinese spirits are primarily made from grain, however in some areas are made from distilled wine, as a brandy. Chinese Spirits were formerly known as "Shao Jiu" and "Sorghum Spirit", however once the People's Republic was formed these regionally specific spirits were categorised to fall under the all encompassing bracket of Chinese Spirits.
There are many ways of categorising the spirits, firstly by the fermenting agent and distilling base, known as Qu.
Da Qu: based from barley or wheat mixed with pea.
Xiao Qu: rice based spirit
Fu Qu: made from bran and is vastly popular among the peasant population due to its cheap production method.
Further to these there are spirits which defy the above classification by having characteristics of both Da Qu and Xiao Qu.
The next method of categorising the spirits describes the different flavour groups.
Maotai flavour is a savoury flavour known as soy sauce flavour and is very well known and a typical style of Chinese spirit. It is made in Maotai, Gui Zhou province.
Luzhou is, by volume, the largest production category. It is also known as "Highly Flavour Type Spirit". Flavour characteristics are a full flavour, and sweet and refreshing. Chinese spirits made in Sichuan and Jiangsu provinces fall into this category.
Fen flavour is considered light in flavour, refreshing, sweet and smooth.
Rice flavour, this spirit has a light, elegant flavour and its production is centred in South China.
Other flavours categorise spirits with such individual flavours that they fail to fit into the other categories. These are not produced in sufficient quantity to have their own category.
The Chinese government recognises certain of the spirits as "National Famous Spirits" these include Maotai spirit, Fen spirit, Luzhou spirit and Wuliangyie spirit, as outlined in the National Appraisals for Alcoholic Beverages.